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Tea Leaves

Hope and peril for wild tigers in India

Animal numbers are rising again but threat of extinction remains

The quartet of tiger cubs cavorted about their mother, teasing at her flank with their noses. She yawned, stretched and then bounded, swatting at her babies with sinewy power and surprising tenderness. The scene set my head swimming with poetry; snatches of William Blake's "Tyger Tyger, burning bright."

The tiger is the embodiment of charismatic megafauna in trouble. Less than 4,000 remain in the wild today, down from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Of the original nine subspecies, three -- the Bali, Caspian and Javan -- are already extinct, while a fourth, the South China tiger, is arguably also lost.

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